WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD?
"For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Col. 1:13, 14
The Power of the Filter
We all have mindsets. These are particular systems or ways of thinking about certain topics. Each topic has its own set of thoughts and "principles" pertaining to that mindset. For example, if you are an Olympic swimmer then you will have a "mind" that pertains to that specific sport. This "mind" will have its own set of subsets or principles regarding Olympic swimming. You will tend to think in terms of water, how to move quickly through water, swimsuits, headgear, goggles, racing techniques, etc. And this mindset will contain its own filter. So when you see water, you will envision swimming, racing, etc. When you approach a swimming pool you will automatically "see" a raceway.
We do the same thing with the scriptures, and specifically, with the idea of the kingdom. Christians view this topic from the perspective of many different mindsets. Therefore, they see different things from the perspective of the various corresponding filters.
Some will see the kingdom of God as a political entity and opportunity for Jesus to rule on this earth through the earthly political process. Others will see the kingdom as an opportunity for the display of spiritual gifts such as healings, miracles, the casting out of demons, raising of the dead, etc. Still others will see the kingdom through the filter of evangelism, revival, and church growth. To them, the kingdom is the rapid spread of the "gospel" of the kingdom which is the salvation of mankind. And to many others the kingdom is seen as the fulfillment of end time prophecy concerning the second coming of Christ. It all has to do with physical Israel and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. And I could go on and on with the various mindsets and the corresponding filters, but I think you get my point.
The One Mindset We Desperately Need
"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
Col. 3:1 - 4
"Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him - a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all." Col. 3:9 - 11
Brothers and sisters, we desperately need the mindset of the new man. The mindset of being "in Christ." The mindset of the New Creation!
"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." 2 Cor. 5:17
In this new mindset we see everything from a new point of view. This is the perspective of God himself. And how does our God see everything? From what perspective does he see? There is only one. He sees from the perspective of "in Christ!" The Father sees all things from this one vantage point. You could say that this is the mindset of God. He sees all things from the "filter" of his beloved Son.
"For in him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form." Col. 2:9
You see, God does everything in and through Christ and therefore he has an "in Christ" frame of mind. But we do not think this way. That's why we need this renewal of the mind that Paul writes about.
Seeing the Kingdom with a New Mind
Of course, we have transferred our old man mindset into our definitions and understandings of the kingdom of God. We only see this from the mindset of principles and topics. For years I viewed the Bible as a book of spiritual topics. Within those topics there were certain "principles" that every believer needs to learn. I not only was taught this and believed it, I also taught God's people this way of topics and principles. I thank God that I finally saw that the Bible is not about topics and principles, but is a book about a Person. That Person is Jesus Christ, God's Son! You see, this Person is all that God thinks about and writes about. The Bible is not a book about certain topics such as salvation, prayer, healing, righteousness, holiness, love, ministry, the church, the kingdom of God, etc. All of the scriptures only speak about one Person and reveal this one Person (John 5:39, 40; Luke 24:27; Rev. 1:1; Rev. 19:13).
All of the supposed topics are actually descriptions of our Lord! Now, let's take a look at the "topic" of the kingdom of God.
"To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables." Mark 4:11
"For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself." Col. 2:1 - 2
"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field." Matt. 13:24
"Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as referring to many, but rather to one. "And to your seed, that is, Christ." Gal. 3:16
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matt. 6:33
"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything." Col. 1:18
"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." Matt. 13:44
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves." 2 Cor. 4:7
"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son." Matt. 22:2
"He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body." Eph. 5:28b - 30
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard." Matt. 20:1
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." John 15:5
It should by now be apparent to you what our definition of the kingdom of God should be. The kingdom is not another topic to be studied with principles that need to be obeyed. The kingdom of God is a Person and we have been called to intimately know and live by means of this wonderful Person.
"Some Pharisees asked Jesus when God's kingdom would come. He answered, "God's kingdom isn't something you can see. There is no use saying, 'Look, here it is' or 'Look! There it is.' God's kingdom is here with you." Luke 17:20, 21
The Lord was talking about Himself. He was standing right there in their midst. The kingdom was among them because He was among them! He IS the kingdom. The kingdom of God is the place where God is first, God rules, and God is all. That place is inside of the Person of Christ.
It's interesting that Paul doesn't have much to say about the kingdom using those exact terms. He only mentions "the Kingdom" a few times and yet Jesus spoke about it constantly. I believe that the reason for this is that Jesus was mainly speaking to Jews and he was cracking wide open their mindset (along with the filters) about the kingdom. They had the political mindset about the kingdom and he came to show them that He was the kingdom. Instead, Paul was speaking mostly to Gentiles and he uses the phrase "in Christ." He uses that phrase over two hundred times in his writings. They both refer to a location. A location that is a glorious Person!
In the Old Testament the kingdom and the land of Canaan were synonymous. Of course, the kingdom of Israel and the physical land of Canaan are only pictures and shadows of the true reality. This reality is Jesus Christ. Paul uses the picture of the Canaan land to show us the unsearchable riches of Christ. He does it through writing about the inheritance of the saints. In the old covenant, the inheritance was a direct reference to the Canaan land being given to the nations of Israel (Acts 20:32; Col. 1:12).
"Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you for a share of the allotted portion of the saints in the light; who delivered us out of the authority of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins . . ." Col. 1:12 - 14
We can see here that Paul ties together the allotted portion, which is a reference to the Canaan land (Josh. 14:1) and the kingdom of the Son of His love. This kingdom, this inheritance, this land is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who is the allotted portion of the saints!